How To Choose The Best Accommodation For Your Needs
How to choose the best accommodation for you, entails breaking down your needs by answering some basic questions. It also helps to use several resources to narrow down your search. Even if you are not exactly sure of what area or type of place in which you’d like to stay, you need to start somewhere.
Many times when we plan travel, we have a preconceived idea of our perfect accommodation. When we research prior to traveling, we usually arrive to an accommodation that meets or exceeds our expectations. However, poor planning often results in our “ideal picture” not matching the actuality of the place, leaving us disappointed upon arrival.
There are many variables to consider for how to choose the best accommodation for your needs. The two major things to look at are the specific accommodation features you require and the research resources to help verify them.
Factors to Consider In How To Choose The Best Accommodation
What is the Purpose of Your Travel?
It is important to remember that the “best” accommodation for one person, may not be the right one for you. The purpose and goal of your travel may help determine the “best” place. Two separate stays in the same area, but for completely different purposes, may result in a very different choice of accommodations.
For example, if you are on business, it may be important to have an impressive hotel lobby to conduct meetings. Room service may be needed for when you are alone in the evening. If you are vacationing with children, you may want a swimming pool or recreational room on property. For a romantic weekend, you may want a room with a view, or an adult only pool. On a backpacking adventure, it is sometimes more fun to be in a social environment, conducive to meeting other hikers.
Is This A Business Stay?
During a business stay, considering needs such as access to a printer, computer, or copier, helps to choose the best accommodation for your needs. Does the facility offer high speed internet, and what is the cost? Are there meeting rooms available? Is there a large lobby, impromptu areas to meet, or a restaurant? What does the facility say about you, your position, or your company status?
Is This Purely A Relaxation Getaway?
If you are searching for leisurely mornings, lazy days, and no stress, is the property conducive to this? Is there room service? How late is breakfast served? Is this an adults only property? Is it all inclusive? What activities are readily available? Are there areas for you to relax or curl up with a book?
Perhaps you have chosen this destination because it is warm and sunny. With a great resort, you may not really care about leaving the property. On the flip side, if you are looking for a combination of resort and sightseeing, be sure the property is not too isolated; It may be difficult to get to town or area highlights. Know what is important to you.
Experience Driven Location Selection
When you choose a location in which to stay, it often dictates the tone of your experience. While you can certainly travel to the interest points of a destination, sometimes a part of the experience is where or how you actually reside. Choosing to stay in a wine villa in Tuscany or a working finca in Guatemala would likely be way more interesting and immersive than staying in the Hilton and visiting these places on a tour.
An excellent example of this point is from my personal travel in Varanasi verses my stay in Paris. On the banks of the Ganges, the colors, activities and smells of daily life, exude. Awakening to the sounds of laundry, beating on the concrete river slabs, is an unparalleled experience. Sure, you can find a fancy or corporate style hotel in the nearby vicinity, but it is insulated from the culture of daily life.
For me, a visit to Varanasi is to be a part of the pulse of the local community, not to be removed from it. Therefore, choosing to stay in a traditional room in a prime riverside location, was worth at least a hundred dollars, verses the fourteen dollars I paid for it.
In contrast, on a recent trip to Paris, the posh Peninsula Hotel was both a perfect landing place, and a historic part of the Parisian culture. Staying in a luxury hotel in the fashion forward City of Lights, is one of many diverse ways to immerse yourself in the glamour that is Paris. Like many large Metropolitan areas, there is a range of places to stay, all offering varied experiences, but equal access to the attractions of the city.
Being clear on your specific wants and needs is the first, and one of the most important steps, in how to choose an accommodation that is best for you.
What Level of Luxury Do I Desire?
Another consideration is how posh of an accommodation you desire and what your idea of “fancy” is. This again may come back to your travel goal. If you plan on being out touring twelve hours a day, and are just using your accommodation to sleep, perhaps you do not care as much about amenities, service, or poshness. However, if you plan on lying low and relaxing, upscale features may be more important.
Upscale, in terms of 5 star, comes with certain service and amenity expectations and usually a high price tag. However there are many accommodations that feel very posh that come at a more affordable price. Therefore, you need to figure out how you define luxury.
For some people, it is the quality of the bedding and towels. For some it is the overall feeling of the property. Modern amenities, or in contrast, a grand old hotel, may feel very fancy. Sometimes it is all about the level of service.
Knowing how important poshness is, and defining what it means to you, will help ensure that you choose an accommodation where you are comfortable and pleased.
On a hiking trip, you may not want to reside in a tent, nor stay with the business crowd in the Ritz. But you may still want to climb into high thread count sheets after a long day on the trails. Perhaps a grand old hotel or a private cabin may be up your alley. “Glamping” (glamorous camping) is popular these days. Consider all options and remember that comfort does not always look one way. Also, luxury is not always directly related to cost.
What Services Do I Expect?
Is There A Swimming Pool?
Does the accommodation have a pool, and is it heated? For me personally, this is a factor I often take into consideration. I find that it is nice to have a reprieve from sightseeing, or a big city. For me, a pool is an area I can come back to after a long day, refresh, read a book, and enjoy a drink. My room is not always conducive to hanging out, and there are some moments where I just want some downtime. Knowing what services you want helps to choose the accommodation that will be best for you.
TIP: In off season months, you may want to narrow down places with pools that are heated.
Pool areas are great to take a down day. It is somewhere to go, where it is generally safe to leave your belongings, let your guard down, and just relax. On recent travel to Cartagena, I found the pool extremely useful. I loved exploring Cartagena, but at the end of the day, I was hot and wanted to just relax and not worry about a thing. The peace and security, combined with the beautiful relaxation, made this pool a great balance to my stay.
Is There A Beach?
In certain areas and certainly at the height of tourist season, beaches can be extremely crowded. Sometimes it is worth it to pay a premium for an accommodation at or near a beach. Parking at beaches can be costly or unavailable, so if you are able to walk to the beach from your accommodation, it can be extremely convenient.
Consider weighing out the difference in cost between potentially paying more to be in walking proximity to a beach, compared to paying for transportation to the beach each day, parking, etc. If your stay includes a private beach club, or beach, it often offers lounge chairs, beach towels, and food/activity type services, some of which may be included in your resort fee.
Does Your Accommodation Offer Any Special Features?
Special features such as on premise hiking trails, a spa, on-site restaurants, a fitness center, a night club, or ski-out services, are ideas of things that may entice you to choose one property over another. Depending again on the purpose of your trip and the access you have to transportation, some of these on premise services may be important to you. Knowing if a specific service or feature is a deal breaker when choosing a place to stay, will certainly help narrow the selection.
What Type of Accommodation?
These days, there are a variety of travel accommodations to choose from. Each offers a different experience. You may choose to narrow your accommodation search to include only the types of properties you are willing to consider. Occasionally, I find something I love in a category I did not think I’d want. Therefore, be careful not to limit yourself out of an option you had not considered.
-Hotels: Usually high rise with a lobby and shared common areas
-Motels: Tend to be 2-3 stories and often have drive up parking spots and outdoor corridors
-Apartment/House Rentals: Usually offer amenities of home such as multiple rooms and kitchens. May or may not have a contact person on premise. Usually a more independent situation.
-Villa Rentals: Often more grandiose, private, and upscale. Often have option of a staff.
-Cabin Rentals: Usually found in nature, mountain, and ski areas and can range from a basic room to fancy. May offer kitchens, campfire areas, or ski out proximity.
-Unique Rentals: Examples include river/house boats, campers, or tents
What Is Your Budget?
After specifying the purpose of my travel and the minimum services and features that I require, next I determine my budget range. I do not do this first because sometimes it may limit options out of a search that I still may want to consider.
For example, a hotel may offer every single thing that I want, but may be $20 per night out of my budget range. Perhaps when I factor in the $100 spa credit being offered, or the beach club pass that is included, it may just balance out.
I always allow for all possibilities before limiting myself solely on budget. Also, if you see a place you really like that is outside your price range, you can search several travel sites and package options to see if you can find a price fit.
Balancing Features Verses Budget – Why Is This Important?
Sometimes it is worth paying a little more for convenience or out of necessity. If you have an early morning flight, you may want to stay at or close to the airport. In inclement weather, you probably want a location that has access to food, a store, or is within proximity of where you need or want to be. If you have jet lag, you may want a location near your arrival in order to rest and avoid long distance ground travel after a long flight. If you only have a short time to visit, staying near to the attractions will maximize your time.
- Socialize with Other Travelers or Privacy
- Proximity to Restaurants
- Close by Local Attractions
- Seclusion Level
- Layout of Accommodation: Elevator, Outdoor Corridors, Stairs, etc.
- Availability Of Public Transport
- Distance from/To Train/Bus station, Ferry port, or Airport
- Ability to Walk to Restaurants, Shopping, Attractions
- Parking Availability and Associated Fees
- Safety and Security of Facility and Its Location: Is it an undesirable part of town? Are nights desolate when coming and going? Is the neighborhood quiet or are loud clubs around? Is there security?
- Are day trips doable, or is it better to move every few days- how long to stay in one place?
See my blog post on the Staying in one place verses moving around.
Resources for How To Choose The Best Accommodation
Using Online Maps
Use a map to locate a desired location. Blow up the map larger in the selected area. Scan the map and view things that you may not have found in a search. It helps to see visually what’s in the vicinity. You can usually see attractions, town centers, restaurants, and more, in addition to accommodations. Then you can narrow further by selecting accommodation options by landmarks, beaches, mountains, city centers, or whatever is important to you.
Using Travel Books
There are some very decent travel related books that offer detailed information on a specific area. Since I love to travel to remote locations and off the beaten path, internet service is not always readily available. So, after referencing a book to compare suggested accommodations and areas, I usually pack it to carry with me. To me, there is still something special about writing notes in the margins.
Compiling A List
Next, compile a list of the options available in or near your desired area. You can search each option individually to see how they are described and what they offer with photos. My first search is usually on the direct accommodation website when possible. This is generally the most accurate description of the vision and service intentions of the place. From there, I eliminate options that do not match at all with my goals. Then, i look for online reviews and travelers photos of the properties I am still considering.
Using Online Reviews
While I do use various travel resources such as travel related books and online travel reviews as guidance, many of the small mom and pop places and local establishments may still not have an internet presence.
Also, when reading reviews, you need to be careful not to miss something fabulous, or choose something crappy. It’s important to think for yourself. Like everything, you must look at the source of the information. You also must consider your own list of factors important to you.
Remember that not everyone does this research and follows these steps. Therefore, going on reviews alone, you may miss a place that would be perfect for you. For example, a person looking for a resort experience may end up in a small bed and breakfast and then complain that it is boring on their review. But if you were looking for a lovely bed and breakfast that is quiet and isolated, you may love this place. Sometimes people give unfair reviews based on their own research shortcomings.
On the other hand, if 80% of reviews state that a place is run down, you may want to reconsider. I find that reading reviews can give you clues about an area and open your eyes to things you may have missed. For example, in sorting reviews for a lodge, a person mentioned that they loved the indoor waterpark. I did not even know it was an option. It made me do another search for lodges in that area that had indoor water parks. The name of the place came up and I added it to my list of options.
Social Media and Specific Searches
Some small local places only have a social media following, but no website. Therefore, checking Facebook or Instagram may pull up others favorites in an area. Some cool places do not advertise or our discreet and do not come up in initial searches. You can do more specific searches such as “Secret Romantic Cave Rooms.” Some great places are still not listed anywhere at all. Walking around & exploring an area may lead to your favorite finds. For me, much of travel is discovery.
Word Of Mouth
Speaking with other travelers who have visited an area on your Bucket List – Free Organizational Download may offer some great insight on how to choose the best accommodation for your needs. If you have the luxury to book rooms as you go, you may find yourself at a local bar in a foreign city, chatting with other travelers that just came from a place you plan on going. They are often an excellent source of information too.
Selecting Your Room
One other item to consider, once you have chosen your accommodation, is the type of room to select. Sometimes, all rooms are equal, or the size or amenities of your room are of little importance to you. However, sometimes you may have a totally different experience than another guest, staying at the same facility, all because of your room.
Specifically in looking at how to choose the best accommodation for you, a tactic that sometimes works for me is choosing the best room, or a very upgraded room, in an accommodation that may be my second or third choice. This is another way to select a place to stay.
For example, say I want a large suite with a terrace over the ocean in a luxury property. My first choice hotel may have this available, but perhaps it is out of my budget. Another option may be to consider a nearby property, maybe a category lower, but in their best room. This may be an affordable and great trade off, causing me to select my second choice property because it offers my first choice room.
Also See, “How To Choose A Room When Traveling”